Minority Democrats want special election to replace U.S. Senator

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Minority Democrats in the state Legislature are proposing a measure to create a special election to replace a U.S. Senate vacancy.

The measure comes days after the GOP-led Legislature made into law a bill that would allow Republican U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski to appoint his successor if elected governor.

House and Senate Democrats filed similar bills on Friday to require the governor to call a special election within 90 days of a congressional vacancy. It would mirror the current requirement to fill a U.S. House of Representatives vacancy.

State Rep. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, said the measure was in response to the Republican move to override Gov. Tony Knowles veto of the bill affecting Murkowski. The vote was along party lines.

''This wouldn't have gotten a single hearing if Senator Frank Murkowski wasn't running for governor,'' Elton said.

House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz also appealed for Murkowski to endorse the measure.

Murkowski could not be reached for comment, a spokesperson in his Fairbanks office said.

Murkowski announced in October that he intends to seek the Republican nomination of governor. Murkowski is a 22-year veteran of Congress and seen as the party favorite for the office.

Democrat Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer is also seeking her party's nomination.

The Legislature approved a bill last session sponsored by state Sen. Dave Donley, R-Anchorage, to require the governor to wait five days before appointing a replacement for Alaska's U.S. Senator. It would block Knowles from appointing a replacement before leaving office when his term ends.

Previously, the governor could immediately appoint a replacement from the former senator's political party.

The bills are House Bill 345 and Senate Bill 249.

-- Knowles filed his fiscal 2003 budget on Friday in the Legislature. The budget increases spending by $180 million but Republicans contend other costs will drive it to $296 million.

The bills were assigned to House and Senate finance committees. They are House Bills 335, 336 and 337 and Senate Bills 245, 246 and 247.

-- A bill to impose a statewide income tax was filed on Friday by Rep. Bill Hudson, R-Juneau. It would impose a 1 percent income tax for a year that rises to 2.3 percent in two years. Hudson modified the bill from a measure last year to impose a 2 percent tax, he said. It never left a House committee.

The 2.3 percent tax would raise about $280 million in state revenues and cost the average taxpayer about $1,600 annually, Hudson said. It is based on a person's taxable income.

Knowles has also asked the Legislature for an income tax that raises $350 million in state revenues. The bill has not been introduced.

Hudson's bill is House Bill 199.

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